These days, everyone wants to make their direct mail more environmentally friendly — but you might be surprised by what tactics really work. Four experts share their go-green tips.
VP of production, Ripon Printers
The big mistake direct marketers make in trying to “green” their print promotions is not taking a holistic approach. You can’t isolate a few factors like paper and ink and think that you’re doing the job. For example, using a lighter weight paper for a catalog might seem to make sense, but not if the catalog is heavily used and a lighter paper forces you to reprint a substantial replacement quantity.
The best approach is to form a sustainability team, including your printer and other key service providers, to examine the entire process from design to distribution. Look at each phase of the overall process to determine potential actions and how those actions impact subsequent production phases.
It takes guts to create a sustainability program that is truly effective. Though recycled paper is an important consideration, many of the most effective sustainability actions lack visibility. The easy road is simply to use recycled paper, print the appropriate logo and wait for the accolades.
Mailing fewer pieces by scrubbing your lists, running them against mail preference files and improving your targeting won’t likely get noticed. Nor will adopting a digital workflow or conducting due diligence to ensure your printer makes the maximum effort to control pollution within the plant and throughout the production process. But these are the types of “green” steps that can pay significant dividends.
So what’s the bottom line? To reduce your carbon footprint beyond the low hanging fruit, you need to collaborate, see the big picture, do your homework and associate with service providers that are just as committed as you are to sustainability. And when you do that, be sure to tell your story at every customer touchpoint — on the print materials, on your Web site and in your newsletters and blogs.
Many of the most effective “green” actions aren’t visible to consumers
Director of marketing, Monadnock Paper Mills Inc.
To most of us, sustainability in print used to mean recycling. Today, we know it involves quite a bit more. Paper content, energy, printing techniques and chemistry — even the design itself — all play a role in determining a campaign’s ecological footprint. These are some basic guidelines to help you improve the environmental impact of your direct marketing materials.
Applying sustainable thinking at the design stage can reap huge rewards. By avoiding bleeds and sizing your piece to fit a press sheet with minimal trim, you can save a lot of waste, cost and energy. Designing pieces as self-mailers eliminates the need for an envelope, further reducing waste, energy and emissions.
Choose uncoated, post-consumer recycled paper. Recycled papers require a fraction of the energy to manufacture and post-consumer content reduces the burden on the waste stream. Uncoated papers yield more usable recycled fiber than their coated counterparts during recycling, creating less solid waste and more usable paper.
Use responsibly sourced components. Many papers available today are certified to come from forests where sustainable harvesting and replanting techniques are used. Vegetable-based inks are also a more sustainable option than those that are petroleum-based. Energy can be responsibly sourced as well. Look for papers and printers who use renewable energy in their manufacturing.
Leverage independent certifying organizations. Today, there are independent organizations that certify renewable energy, forestry practices, waste and emissions, chemicals and even corporate environmental systems. By knowing and recognizing these organizations, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort selecting suppliers who “walk the talk.”
Finally, involving printers with a project from the beginning can help you design within the parameters of their equipment and save a lot waste, energy, time and expense.
Determining a campaign’s eco-footprint involves more than recycling
Director of eco-friendly initiatives, Kohler Print Group
In the world of print marketing, there’s more to the green movement than simply protecting Mother Nature. By rethinking your direct mail strategy and design, the green movement can also provide more “green” to your pocketbook.
We often see direct mail campaigns designed as a generic letter, a fill-in-the-form card and a business reply envelope. It is usually possible to eliminate all of these components, as well as the outgoing envelope, and have an even more effective campaign in the process. Our VP, Keith Kohler, often says: “If envelopes are meant to be pushed, I prefer to push them away.”
In one recent campaign, we and our advertising agency partner helped a client achieve a 7.4% response rate from a personalized postcard featuring their name etched into a beach scene, with a personalized URL as the response mechanism. Instead of expecting recipients to fill in a business reply card (BRC), the strategy was to have them fill in data directly on the personalized Web site. If the piece had gone out in an envelope, the personalized image of the beach scene may have never captured the attention of recipients. In this example, the client eliminated the outgoing envelope, the letter and the BRC, thereby saving money on the return postage costs associated with the BRC.
We also recently converted a cumbersome, multicomponent mailer into a single self-mailer for a nonprofit donor campaign. By redesigning the piece and digitally printing on pre-converted forms, we were able to integrate the appeal message, the reply card and the reply envelope into one piece of flat mail. Not only was the campaign personalized, but the recipient could simply tear off the reply card and self-sealing envelope in order to respond.
You can succeed even if you eliminate components such as fill-in cards
Art director, Clean Agency
Consumers everywhere are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions and the companies they patronize. Today’s consumer is extremely discerning, opting in to relevant marketing materials from trusted brands while opting out of anything too general, careless or needlessly profuse.
With this in mind, here are a few key items to consider when trying to make your direct marketing materials more environmentally friendly.
Always consider the end of life of a direct mail piece first. Understanding where the mailer is likely to end up once it is discarded is as important as the desired response. Choosing soy inks, aqueous coatings and other processes that are less harmful to the environment makes your mailer easier to recycle and takes into consideration its landfill impact.
Your goal should be sustainability without sacrificing performance. Thanks to the existence of three independent fiber certification processes (FSC, SFI and PEFC), finding the right stock — one that looks great and is ethically sourced — is easy. Paying attention to these details is a great way to put your piece head and shoulders above the competition.
Focusing your message insures that a mailer is easily readable, enabling recipients to make a judgment before the mailer gets buried in the recycle bin.
Building innovation into a mailer can go a long way toward providing the consumer with a positive experience. An example is using paper embedded with seeds that sprout when planted. Be forewarned, however, that such investments only pay off if they easily fit within your core messaging.
Try appealing to a broader sense of shared responsibility with carbon offsetting. You can calculate the carbon output of a campaign and offset the amount via a carbon program such as www.nativeenergy.com. This is a particularly good fit for a large campaign.
Marketers should not sacrifice performance for increased sustainability